I wonder how you are thinking about the year ahead? 2022 was a tough year for many people, and the Covid years before it, too. We wake up to daily news of threat – Ukraine, the economy, inflation, pandemic. No other generation has ever been exposed to so much news, and often bad news, brought to them 24/7 through images from screens in their sitting room, on their mobile phones, and now I even get them on my Apple Watch. There’s no escape. The only escape we have is by taking control of our mind, in making the choices of what we choose to watch or listen to, and what we choose to pay attention to in the inevitable cascade of thoughts that run through our minds every day, and sometimes continue to keep us awake at night.
Images are powerful drivers of our feelings and actions. I don’t watch the 10 o’clock news any more because I don’t want to go to bed with a whole bunch of anxious-making pictures and messages in my head. But instead, as we start this new year, we can begin to work at creating more positive images for ourselves, our communities, the world. Focusing on the negative simply drives us to a paralysis of fear and helplessness, especially when so many of the news stories we are receiving are beyond our immediate control. What to do about the economy, inflation, climate change, war? We can only start with ourselves. For how we act, and the energy we create around us, influences others too. And to do this we need to decide what we can Alter, what might we need to Avoid (eg the 10 o’clock news, or specific people or places that upset us) and what might we need to Accept – eg the things we cannot change, and that could be illness, as my 11-year old granddaughter demonstrates to me continually as she lives with Type 1 Diabetes with acceptance and stoicism, determined to make the most of her life.
In my experience in my own life, and in coaching others, it really works to take some time – it doesn’t have to take ages – just to jot down how you would prefer things to go for you, your family, friends, country, the world in the year ahead. The mind works continuously to bring into being the things you seek but if you focus on the negative, or if you are unclear what you are instructing it, this can lead to ambiguity and doubt. I am speaking to myself in this as we all need constant reminders of the habits that help us live life well.
The Buddha said “it’s your mind that creates your world”. Your subconscious beliefs and expectations can limit your ambitions and achievements and, when you take time to bring them up to the surface, you may find that they are not your beliefs today at all. They may be the beliefs and expectations of your parents, or a teacher, an aunt or uncle who sewed some idea in your head some time ago. We are witnessing the way we need to question our perceptions every day as we become a more tolerant society. It’s valuable continually to challenge one’s own beliefs about oneself, others, and the world, as we go through our lives, because we are not the same person at 21 that we were at 10 years old, not the same person at 40 that we were when we were at 20, not the same person at 70 that we were at 50. The world changes around us and we need to go inward to adjust the thoughts and images we have built up over the years and update them to circumstances today – but, more importantly, to how you would like life to be, and how you would like to be within yourself. Change your thoughts and you change your world.
So, maybe take some time today, tomorrow or soon to consider what you might like to have achieved, experienced, received, enjoyed, contributed, by the time you arrive at the end of 2023. It’s always worth writing this down as it utilises another sense and the thoughts that might be jumbled in your head become more organised as you make them visual. What might you like to have changed for you, your family, your health, your finances, your colleagues, business, friends, the world? And don’t forget to visualise peace in Ukraine and justice for those oppressed. Then consider what that might physically look like? What would you and they be doing differently if this came to pass? Build some pictures, images, like a movie in your head. See it happening as you go through the year and capture an image of how you would like it all to look by the end of the year. Caption that image and let that caption rest in your mind every day to motivate your belief in yourself.
“Change your thoughts and you change your destiny”, so Joseph Murphy wrote in his book The Power of the Subconscious Mind. Mahatma Gandhi advised us to “Become the change you want to see”, which basically means acting as if you will be successful in achieving those aspirations you have imagined. Doubt simply limits us, and negative thoughts deplete our immune system so become more aware of your thinking patterns as you go through the day. What helps you feel happy and competent, what holds you back? It’s up to you. You are in charge of your mind – you have an executive brain that controls which thought or motivation you pay attention to. It’s like lying in bed in the morning where one thought leads you to stay in bed, the other thought leads you to go to the gym or for a walk in the fresh air. It’s up to you which one you listen to and act upon.
Charles Darwin wrote that “it is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” And so we have to adapt the way we think about ourselves and those around us in order to enjoy life’s different stages. As I get older, “ancient” as my grandson would describe me (!), I have to accept that I will never look as slim and youthful as I did and wonder why I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it! So, it’s important to be thankful for what we do have to feel good about. Gratitude takes us a long way towards contentment. If we are to turn the economy around, we all need to put energy into work, innovation, and consider what the fruits of that might look like. If we are to turn climate change around, we all need to make changes to our personal habits of how we use energy. If we are to turn our own state of happiness around, we need to go inward and change the thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve us well. How we are inside translates to the personal energy we bring to a room, to the world.
None of what I write is new, but it is so easy to forget to do it. So why not take a pen and paper in the next day or two and write down how you would like things to be by the time we reach the end of the year. Then sit quietly, slow your breath, and build visual images of the changes you want to see for yourself and others. Maybe even create some post-it notes to have over your desk, or messages on your phone, or a collage of images on your fridge to remind yourself. It can be quite fun, and no one else can do it for you. Good luck and bon courage!
Let’s, between us all, make 2023 a whole lot better than 2022.
Further reading: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0034OJ57S
Donate to Junior Diabetes Research Fund: https://jdrf.org.uk/get-involved/give/donation-v2/